Are you constantly fielding questions from your child about getting a pet? Of course, complete with, “But I’ll take care of it, I promise!” Every parent knows the drill: You get a pet “for” your child, but you end up doing most, if not all, of the work.
There’s gotta be a better way! In this article, we’ll outline some of the best pets for children and toddlers as well as the easiest pets to take care of (in case you end up doing most of the work). We’ll also explain how pets can help teach kids responsibility and independence as they learn to care for another being.
In the end, we hope you feel comfortable bringing a new loved one into your home and taking care of that pet together as a family.
- Best pets for children
- What is the easiest pet to take care of?
- ~Best pets for toddlers
- Teaching kids responsibility
Best pets for children
The best pets for children are generally low maintenance, easy to care for, and (ideally) hardy. Allowing your child to get a pet is a great opportunity for them to learn how to be responsible, independent, and organized.
However, the truth is, children are not the best caretakers of pets because they are just learning how to care for themselves. Most, if not all, children will require guidance, support, and scaffolding from their parents when caring for a pet.
Getting your child a fish is a great way to start them on their journey to caring for an animal. Fish are small, not smelly, can be kept in your child’s room, and are somewhat hardy. We recommend freshwater fish, like a goldfish or a Betta fish, because they are easier to care for, low maintenance pets for kids.
Like fish, reptiles are generally small and can fit in your child’s room. They don’t smell or make a lot of noise, either. Reptiles sometimes require more equipment than fish (they might need a heater and light). In addition, reptiles often eat live insects, so if you think you will end up responsible for this pet instead of your child, keep that in mind. Reptiles are extremely hardy and often live a very long time, so your child can have a friend for life!
Small birds like parakeets and canaries can be good starter pets for kids who are a little older. They often require more attention than fish and reptiles. In addition, they can be on the noisier side. But, birds are intelligent and social creatures, which is why they make good pets for kids. Birds also live quite a long time and they are hardy.
Small mammals like hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, and even mice or rats can be great low maintenance pets for kids. They don’t need a lot of space or equipment, but they can sometimes be noisy (especially at night) and they might have an odor. But, if your child is looking for an animal that they can pet and play with, rodents are a good option!
Adopting a kitten or a cat for your child might seem like a big step, but that’s the beauty of cats! They are often independent animals who thrive with less contact than dogs. Cats are a bigger responsibility, though, because they require attention and care beyond rodents, reptiles, birds, and fish. Plus, it is important to choose a cat with the right temperament for children. Speak with your local animal shelter to find the right cat for your family.
Ok, if you get your child a dog, you will likely spend a lot of time taking care of that dog. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! The relationship and bond between a child and their dog is often unmatched (and think of all of the cute photos!). In addition, since dogs are generally cared for on a schedule, you can work with your child to split up the responsibilities. They will still gain many of the benefits of caring for a pet, like increased sense of responsibility, as well as learn the importance of schedules.
Before you and your child choose a pet, make sure you both learn all about the caring instructions. Talk with your child about what they will be able to do without your help and what they expect will need support from you. Come up with a schedule together and help them along the way at the beginning. As they do more and more, you should be able to take a step back and supervise more.
What is the easiest pet to take care of?
Cut to the chase: Which pet is the easiest to take care of? We think fish and reptiles are likely the easiest pets to take care of. That being said, no pet can care for itself. And, we hate to say it, but no child will fully be able to take care of a pet by themselves. If you are going to take the leap and bring a pet into your house, you need to know that you will likely be sharing the responsibility with your child. If that is not something you want to do, then we recommend holding off on bringing a pet home until you, and your child, are ready for the extra responsibility.
Best pets for toddlers
Are any pets good for toddlers? To be perfectly honest, toddlers are still figuring out how to care for themselves. It is not likely that a toddler can take care of a pet themselves. But, you can still incorporate your toddler into pet care as a way to get them to learn empathy, practice skills, and increase their sense of responsibility.
Therefore, the best pets for toddlers are ones that toddlers can interact with and help care for. However, we do recommend checking with a professional before bringing a pet home. Some reptiles and rodents carry diseases like salmonella that can be dangerous for toddlers. Likewise, larger animals like cats and dogs might scare toddlers. Therefore, it is important to check with the shelter staff before adopting a cat or dog to make sure the animal is good with kids.
In addition, you know your child best. If your child is afraid of animals, we do not recommend bringing home a pet until you have worked through that fear with them. Animals react to the energy and nerves of the people around them. If your child is not ready to interact with a pet at home, bringing a pet home will only exacerbate those feelings.
Teaching kids responsibility
Bringing home a pet is a great way to teach responsibility to kids. When taking care of a pet, children learn empathy because they need to consider the needs of their pet and not just their own needs. As a parent, this sounds great! However, it’s important to help guide your child as they learn to be more responsible surrounding the care for their pet.
Here are some tips for teaching kids responsibility
- Provide scaffolding. You can’t just throw your child into the deep end and hope they swim. It is important to help them feel comfortable with their new responsibilities and provide support until they can do it on their own. Even when they can, offer support and supervision to make sure they do not feel overwhelmed.
- Lean on schedules. Children thrive on routines and schedules. By adding pet care to your child’s schedule, you can ensure that their new tasks just become part of the daily routine. Check out our guide about creating a daily schedule for kids, including a downloadable schedule template that you can use with your family.
- Make it fun and praise good work. Taking care of a pet is one of the best ways for children to learn that having responsibilities can be fun and rewarding. Join your child for walks with the dog or sit with them while they clean the fish tank to make these chores feel more fun.
We hope this guide has helped you learn about good pets for kids and toddlers as well as tips for teaching responsibility to your child. If you are looking for great in-person and virtual activities from educators, check out Sawyer!